UIS Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis
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Karstbase Bibliography Database

Farooq Ahmad Dar
Hydrogeological characteristics of carbonate formations of the cuddapah basin, india

Karst hydrogeology is an important field of earth sciences as the aquifers in carbonate formations represent vital resource of groundwater that feeds a large part of the world population particularly in semi-arid climates. These unique aquifers posses peculiar characteristics developed by dissolutional activities of water. Karst aquifers possess a typical hydrogeological setup from surface to subsurface. The aquifers are governed by slow groundwater flow in matrix porosity, a medium to fast flow in fractures and rapid flow in conduits and channels. This large variability in their properties makes the prediction and modeling of flow and transport very cumbersome and data demanding. The aquifers are vulnerable to contamination as the pollutants reach the aquifer very fast with little or no attenuation. The geomorphological and hydrogeological properties in these aquifers demand specific techniques for their study. The carbonate aquifers of the semi-arid Cuddapah basin were characterized based on geomorphological, hydrogeological and hydrochemical investigations. All the formations are highly karstified possessing one of the longest and deepest caves of India and few springs along with unique surface features. Karstification is still in progress but at deeper levels indicated by growing speleothems of different architectural size. Model of karstification indicates that lowering of base level of erosion resulted in the dissolution of deeper parts of the limestone as represented by paleo-phreatic conduits in the region. Moist conditions of the past were responsible for the karst development which has been minimized due to the onset of monsoon conditions. Karst has developed at various elevations representing the past base levels in the region.

The recharge processes in these aquifers are complex due to climatic and karst specificities. Point recharge is the major contributor which enters the aquifer as allogenic water. It replenishes the groundwater very rapidly. Diffuse recharge travels through soil and epikarst zone. Average annual recharge of semi-arid Narji limestone aquifer is 29% of the rainfall which occurs during 5-7 rain events in the year.

The hydrogeochemical characteristic of karst aquifers is quite varaible. A significant difference is observed in hydrochemistry. High concentrations of SO42-, Cl-, NO3- suggests the anthropogenic source particularly from agriculture. Local Meteoric Water Line of δ2H and δ18O isotopes of rain and groundwater shows a slope of 7.02. Groundwater isotope data shows more depletion in heavy isotopes -a result of high evaporation of the area. Groundwater samples show a trend with a slope of 4 and 3.1 for δ2H and δ18O respectively. Groundwater during dry months gets more fractionated due to higher temperature and little rainfall. The irrigated water becomes more enriched and then recharges the aquifer as depleted irrigation return flow. The isotopes show large variation in spring water. Few springs are diffuse or mixed type and not purely of conduit type in the area. Tracer results indicate that the tracer output at the sampling location depends on the hydrogeological setup and the nature of karstification.

The study has significantly dealt with in disclosing the typical characteristics of such aquifer systems and bringing out a reliable as well as detailed assessment of various recharges to the system. The groundwater chemistry has been elaborated to establish the nature of possible hydrochemical processes responsible for water chemistry variation in semi-arid karst aquifer. Such study has thrown light on the aquifers that are on one hand very important from social and strategic point of view and on the hand were left unattended from the detailed scientific studies.

carbonate formations, karst aquifers, Belum Cave, Narji limestone, dissolution, karstification, epikarst, groundwater flow, spatio-temporal variability, isotopes, tracers, vulnerability.